Charter, LIN Engage In Retrans Fight

6/06/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

The year's first major retransmission-consent battle appears to be underway, after broadcaster LIN TV said that negotiations with Charter Communications have broken down.

LIN, which owns about 11 stations in seven markets in Charter territory — in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Green Bay, Wis.; Hartford-New Haven, Conn.; Springfield, Mass.; Dayton and Toledo, Ohio; and Providence, R.I. — said its current deal with Charter is scheduled to expire June 30.

In a statement, LIN said that its negotiations with Charter “appear unlikely to result in a retransmission-consent agreement. As a result, LIN TV expects Charter to discontinue carriage of its television stations when the current contract expires.”

The stations include three NBC affiliates, two ABC stations, one CBS station, three Fox stations and two My Network TV affiliates. According to Wachovia Securities broadcast-TV analyst Marci Ryvicker.

The LIN stations cover an area of about 600,000 Charter subscribers — roughly 10% of the MSO's total customer base. While she added that LIN appears to have the most leverage at the moment — she pointed out that customers may protest losing NBC stations during the Summer Olympics in August — she also noted that customer outrage could be muted during the summer rerun season.

“At the end of the day, we think [LIN] will be victorious —hopefully before the June 30 deadline or soon after,” Ryvicker wrote.

In the event that the channels do go dark on the Charter systems, LIN has an agreement with Dish Network whereby the satellite-TV company will offer a $50 incentive for a limited time to customers in the Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Hartford-New Haven and Providence market who switch to its service.

Charter said in a statement that it is in active negotiations with LIN and that it successfully negotiates retransmission deals with other broadcasters on a regular basis and will work to do the same with LIN.

“Charter is focused on providing value to our customers and we negotiate with their best interests in mind,” the St. Louis-based MSO said in a statement. We want to assure our customers that it is not Charter's intention to discontinue carrying these stations in our lineup.”

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